Lewis Hamilton to start the Russian Grand Prix from fourth place after the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team threw away pole position at the Sochi Autodrom. Team-mate Valtteri Bottas to start seventh.
Hamilton and Bottas dominated Qualifying One and Two on the Intermediate tyres at a very damp Sochi Autodrom, the pair looked untouchable and almost certain to lockout the front row.
Qualifying Three started the way the previous sessions ended, with the Silver Arrows one and two after the first runs. Hamilton was on provisional pole from his Finnish team-mate. Everything then went so wrong for the Mercedes side. The team were slow to react to those around them who had all pitted for soft slick tyres. Hamilton and Bottas were the last to make the change.
Hamilton’s hopes of pole suddenly looked bleak , the seven-time world champion hit the barrier hard when entering the pit-lane, breaking his front wing in the process. The British driver sat in the box as his team not only changed his tyres but also his front wing. By the time Hamilton was back out on track he only had time for one lap on the soft tyres, unlike his opponents who had a couple.
Hamilton failed to improve and dropped to fourth after not managing to generate enough heat into the soft rubber. The world champion is disappointed in himself after making the mistake, on a weekend where his title rival Max Verstappen is starting from the back of the grid.
“I made a mistake in the pit lane and I’m incredibly disappointed with that. Up until then, I was in the groove, I was in the zone and I am really sorry for all the team that are here and back at the factory because obviously that’s not what you expect from a champion. It is what it is, and I’ll do my best tomorrow to try and rectify it. At the end, it was so slippery when you don’t have any temperature and without the time for that second push lap, we couldn’t set the time of the guys ahead.
“Those cars up front have got good pace and it definitely won’t be easy tomorrow. I’m just going to say my prayers and hope that our car can be fixed to be OK for tomorrow. These things are sent to try us, and as much as I feel terrible right now, I’ll turn it into a positive and try to do the best we can. But we’ve got a Brit on pole which is great, so congrats to Lando.”
“It’s not great but nowhere near over yet” – Valtteri Bottas
Like Hamilton, Bottas only got one lap on the soft tyres and suffered a similar fate to his world champion team-mate. It is a bitter pill for Bottas to swallow after looking so strong in every single session so far in Sochi.
Despite the disappointment of starting seventh, Bottas is remaining positive that his starting position could’ve been worse and that he has had a strong car all weekend.
“Q1 and Q2 were going well, we seemed to be strong in the Inter conditions but in the end when it started to dry, we came in and obviously we were hopeful to get two timed laps. In the end, we only got one and couldn’t get the tyres to work in one lap, it was too difficult to get the temperature into them.
“All the cars ahead of us got at least two laps and that was the issue. It’s not great but nowhere near over yet, we have a strong car and I’ve had strong pace all weekend. At least I’m not starting from the back like in Monza so hopefully we’ll be better and I can push on from P7.”